The phycology and microbiology groups, in co-operation with other research institutions (Institute of Botany CAS; Institute of Soil Biology, Biology Centre CAS; Institute of Microbiology CAS; Department of Ecosystem Biology and Department of Experimental Plant Biology, Faculty of Science, University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice; Department of Ecology and Department of Botany, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague; etc.), covers wild spectrum of research activities that are focused on following main tasks:
The research tasks of the phycology group start by description of taxonomical diversity of cyanobacteria and algae and of selected environmental parameters in studied area in which particular communities live. The cyanobacteria and algae are studied in all types of terrestrial biotopes, including shallow lotic and lentic wetlands, soil crusts, ornithogenic soils, wet tundra, wet walls, cryoseston of the soil fields, cryoconites on glacial surface, lichenized substrates, biotopes influenced by human activities or brackish coastal wetlands. Ecological observations are focused on assessment of important ecological factors and their stability in time in mentioned biotopes. They include both discrete or continual measurements of basic environmental factors (physical-chemical parameters of soils and waters, diurnal courses of temperature, irradiance, water transparency, pH, oxygen concentration, conductivity, etc.). Selected parameters, namely temperature and water availability, are recorded for long periods of time. In addition, the species composition of cyanobacteria and algae is evaluated and rate of the primary productivity is measured.
Based on this in situ description, interesting populations of cyanobacteria and algae are selected for detailed ecophysiological studies. For taxonomical determination of individual species, the polyphasic approach is applied in which the classic microscopic observations are combined with data obtained from DNA sequencing. Isolated strains of cyanobacteria and algae are kept in the working collection, later they are included in the Culture Collection of the Autotrophic Organisms (CCALA) of the Institute of Botany CAS in Třeboň. Ecophysiological characteristics of polar cyanobacteria and algae are investigated using field measurements as well as by laboratory experiments. Svalbard field experiments are focused on measurements of photosynthetic activity and nitrogen fixation (expressed as nitrogenase activity) of Nostoc sp. colonies (Cyanobacteria) in Open-Top-Chamber experiments (see below) and in other defined manipulation experiments, for example evaluation of desiccation effects, on investigation of dormant stage formation in cyanobacteria and algae, and on study of photochemical processes in different types of biotopes. Laboratory experiments are focused on determination of ecophysiological requirements of particular species and detailed studies of their response to various environmental factors.
Due to temperature increase in the Arctic, natural resources exploitation is being expanding and human settlements are being extending in the polar regions. In order to minimize the effects of human activities (e.g. water eutrophication) and improvement of the efficiency of the natural resources exploitation (e.g. fish production), new technologies have to be developer. Some of them will be based on utilization of local microorganisms. The phycology group already performed the first tests for the selection of biotechnologically interesting strains and tested the possibility of mass cultivation in low temperatures.
Soil microbiologists bring their own methods for soil research. The soil samples are collected for chemical and microbiological analyses in context with diversity of microclimatic parameters, time of deglaciation, elevation, substrate type, degree of disruption by wind and water erosion, degree of coverage by vegetation of higher plants and mosses, degree of anthropogenic influence, etc. Together with mentioned analyses, microbial diversity is evaluated and the greenhouse gases exchange in soils o different degree of development, from tundra with full vegetation cover under sea bird sanctuaries to newly developer soil just after deglaciation. Based on these analyses, the soil development is determined in relation to given ecological parameters.
Both groups co-operate in research on the effects of global climate change on the polar ecosystems. Since 2009, experiments using open small greenhouses (Open Top Chambers, OTC) have been performed in selected localities (wet thufur tundra and soil crusts), in which the effects of mild warming and change of soil water content on cyanobacterial and algal communities, and on decomposition rate have been evaluated.
Team members: Josef Elster, Jana Kvíderová, Marie Šabacká
Our group focuses on study of carbon and nitrogen cycles in relation to the composition and functioning of microbial communities and their relationships with other organisms in ecosystems such as tundra, taiga, continental glaciers, lakes.
The main objective of our group is to:
We are primarily interested in how natural forcing (permafrost thaw) is changing the functioning of these ecosystems, i.e. rates of carbon and nutrient transformation and loss from the ecosystem, species and functional diversity of the soil microbial community, and soil-vegetation relationships.
Our research focuses primarily on describing microorganisms in terms of both diversity and function. Microbial communities include all three domains of life (bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes), which implies that the study of such a complex system is poses a considerable challenge to scientists. In the last decade, new genetic and molecular biological techniques (PCR, sequencing, etc.) have been increasingly applied to study complex microbial communities. It is these that allow us to better describe the processes and the microorganisms responsible for them in complex terestrial and aquatic environments. Last but not least, they allow us to study the interactions between organisms. These new methods are the focus of our molecular biology laboratory.
Knowledge of the chemical and microbiological composition of organic matter and the processes by which carbon, nitrogen and nutrients are stabilized is essential to predict the extent and timescale at which SOC will be remobilized from thawing permafrost under climate change.
We have long-standing collaborations with institutes at the Biological Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, and with foreign universities in Helsinki, Hannover, Vienna and Uppsala. These collaborations open up the possibility for our students to travel abroad on a placement at a friendly university.
Contact person: Jiří Bárta
Team members: Oleg Ditrich, Eva Myšková
Ornithology group focuses mainly on:
using birds, with a particular focus on shorebirds and allies, as an excellent model group at numerous localities worldwide, from tropics up to the high Arctic, using well the established extensive network of 40+ teams within the ÉLVONAL Shorebird Science project (https://elvonalshorebirds.com/home/).
When asking important scientific questions, we are often effectively combining independent data at three different levels: i) data directly collected by our team – individual in-depth field studies using a detailed methodology and experimental design; ii) data collected according to unified protocols across an extensive network of 40+ collaborating teams worldwide; iii) data extracted from published and online sources, enabling broad comparative insights.
Our investigations have several important implications. First, we are identifying key climate change, human pressure, and life-history factors affecting breeding performance and survival rates as well as global population trends of wild animals with the use of recently developed demographic models adopting an explicit phylogenetic framework. Second, the exploration of spatial and temporal changes in life-history traits, population dynamics, and social behavior is enabling us to track historic patterns and recent impacts of climate change and human pressure on wild animals in a rapidly changing world. Third, we do care for the outreach and conservation implications of our research, our scientific outputs are being disseminated among conservationists, policymakers, and the wide public in various countries to promote and advocate new specific conservation applications mitigating the impact of recent environmental changes.
We look forward working with highly motivated researchers from all over the world. This may include scientists, conservationists, post-docs, students at various levels, interns, and volunteers. Get in touch with us.
Team members: Vojtěch Kubelka, Guillaume Dillenseger and Andreas Rimoldi
Photo: Vojtěch Kubelka